“Our worst enemies are in our midst” : violence in the Texas Hill Country, 1845-1881




Roland, Nicholas Keefauver

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Between 1845 and 1881, the Texas Hill Country was the southwestern frontier of contiguous white settlement in the state. For roughly thirty-five years, Anglo and European immigrant settler communities struggled against natural disasters, lack of market access, Native American raiders, bandits, and one another in a sustained effort to incorporate this remote region into the wider economic and political networks of the nineteenth century United States. Prior to the Civil War, the Hill Country’s ethnically diverse white settlers were united in a war of attrition against Native Americans. For several reasons, most in the region opposed secession in 1861. After secession, the problem of frontier defense sustained community cohesion for a time, but the demands of the intensifying conflict eventually forced Hill Country Texans to choose sides in a vicious local conflict that erupted between 1862 and 1864. Despite the Hill Country’s Civil War experience, Reconstruction was not marked by a continuation of high-levels of political violence. An unprecedented campaign of Indian raiding quickly reasserted security as the region’s defining political issue. In addition to the Indian war, a conflict that continued until approximately 1880, the late 1860s saw a rise in cattle rustling and other forms of criminal activity. Finally, by 1880 the so-called “outlaw frontier” was also forced beyond the Hill Country. The extended fight against Indians and criminals meant that while the bloody legacy of the Hill Country’s Civil War experience was not forgotten, after 1865 a remarkably swift reconciliation took hold within the white settler community due to the imperative for settlers to once again cooperate for mutually-held security goals. I argue that patterns of violence both defined and revealed the priorities and concerns of white settlers in the Civil War-era Texas Hill Country. White frontier Texans were local agents of the imperial nation-state, and they worked together to advance market integration and state-building in the Southwest both before and after the Civil War. Ironically, between 1861 and 1865 Hill Country settlers were set against one another by the divisive national politics that grew from the advance of Anglo American empire in the Southwest



LCSH Subject Headings